Let’s continue with our Tales of Tanzania!
The whole point of why I was in Tanzania was because I had bought and paid for a guided trip with Wild Women Expeditions. I’d done this once before, in Peru, when I hiked the Inca Trail. Wild Women Expedition is a travel company catering to women (ALL women) and it really gave me ease and comfort in travelling alone, back in the day when I was SO afraid to do so. This time, I wasn’t afraid but knew from experience that I’d meet the coolest people and have a great trip. I was not disappointed!
After leaving the great care and hospitality of Korona House, I made my way to the Arumeru River Lodge to meet the ladies. Wow! What a group! We gelled pretty much instantly and made a tight group of five. I wish I could explain how effortless it was and maybe it was just me, but it was like we’d known each other and travelled together for years. How does that even happen?! It was the first magical event of the trip.
Who are we? Myself, my roommate Veronica, Monica, Janet and Kate. More on them later. They deserve their own post.
Our guide was an amazing woman named Grace. Now here’s the thing about guides in Tanzania. There are around 400 guides in the place. Of those 400 guides, 10 are female. 10! In a climate like that, how many of those women get a chance to be lead guides? Not very many! Pretty much never, although we couldn’t be 100% sure. The fact of the matter is, its unheard of. Our group was making history in Tanzania, with Grace as our guide! And the fuss we made…the reactions we got…well that was a WHOLE thing!
Our first event was a trip to the village of Mulala on the slopes of Mt. Meru, to visit the Agape Women group and experience one of their cultural programs.
What a hoot! We were greeted by Mama Anna and there was much dancing, singing and carrying on. My face hurt from smiling and laughing. I came home with new laugh lines and this was the day that started them off!
After tea and an introduction to the program we went on a nice walk through the village. It was carrot season and that top picture is a field full of carrots. It stretched up the slopes of Mt. Meru and there were many, many more like them. They were also planting green beans and corn!
The amount of work that goes into farming like that…I was in awe. Much respect. I know my own little garden is hard enough, I can’t imagine growing on that scale, on hills and having to lug water, tools and if you’re lucky, the harvest up and down and then on to market. WOW!
See that stuff on the left? Justin ,Mama Anna’s son-told us it was like marijuana but not actually. It only looked like it. He said if you crushed the leaves-just a small bit!-and gave it a sniff, it could be used to treat headaches. So of course we all had to try that! It was really neat! The smell was most appealing, sorta minty…and it went straight up your nose, ha ha, it was like smelling eucalyptus or something, not skunky like actual weed. Veronica said it did indeed cure her headache. I loved the smell so much I wanted to keep stuffing it up my nose. Justin cautioned us that too much would make us dizzy and want to lie down and sleep!
I do aim to try to figure out WHAT that stuff was though. It smelled SO good. From photos it looks like it might be Artemisia herba-alba- White Wormwood. It sure does look like Cannabis Sativa…I don’t know. It’s a bit thin and leggy, maybe its the third kind of cannabis. ANYWAY. This is taking me down a rabbit hole and you can be sure I’ll have an answer for you at some point! If YOU have an answer for me, please share. It was neat stuff.
After our walk along a narrow dirt path-where were learned about the elders and other plants and fences and magic words and had our own little parade of cute kids amongst all that green and flowers of every imaginable kind-we found ourselves back at Mamma Anna’s for lunch. A traditional lunch!
Oh my, what a feast! On my plate is the lovely kale and onion dish I so enjoyed at Korona House, rice with potatoes, dried and rehydrated peas cooked in pounded maize, beef stew with peppers and a rich, peppery gravy and the biggest, bestest, giantest French fries. I have no clue what they were coated in but they were delicious. Watch for them here soon as I try to recreate them.
We also enjoyed some smoked gouda, as made by the Agape Women Group, watermelon and tea and coffee. (The tea also deserves a whole other post.)
After lunch, we got to see how coffee is harvested, roasted and ground by hand!
The amount of work that goes into this stuff!? WOW! First they have to pick the beans which are just tiny little berries. Then they dry them in the sun, then there are different layers of dried skin they have to get off, then it’s roasted over a fire, in a pot, then they pound it by hand into a powder. I have a bag I bought from their gift shop but I almost don’t want to use it! I will but still…every sip is a sip to be grateful for.
Grace grew up in a village not far from Mulala and she spent her days doing this very thing! No wonder she was such a natural! We all had our turns, it was hard work but so fun to give it a try!
We learned about cheese making-Sorry. I stopped taking photos because I was so immersed in the experience and visited their gift shop and then it was time to go home. It was an exhausting day! But the best kind. The kind of exhausting that tires you out and leaves you feeling happy and content. The kind of day that had I been forced to go home, right then, I would have felt happy and totally satisfied with my Tanzanian experience. Can you imagine? And we hadn’t even seen animals yet! That comes next!